A few months ago Slain! released to lackluster reviews. What should have been a heavy metal inspired 90’s platformer ended up being a broken, buggy mess. Now, Wolf Brew Games has released an update detailing a new version that fixes most of the prevalent issues in Slain!
This minty fresh new version is called Slain: Back from Hell, and has replaced the original Slain! on Steam. Public opinion regarding the game is higher since the latest patch, and it likely helps that this update was free. However, this brings up an interesting question. Is it okay for a developer to force their customers into getting a new version of their product? As of Aug 4th, 2016, it has become impossible to play the original version of Slain! on Steam. GOG’s copy of Slain! will soon receive the update as well, and the console versions will launch as Slain: Back from Hell. Soon they’ll be no way to play Slain! in its original form. (Note: GOG does have an update rollback feature but if S:BfH isn’t a traditional update and instead replaces the store page, the rollback feature won’t work.)
There are many reasons why a user would want access to an older version of a game. The most important is preservation. Video games not only have their own culture but they are also slowly bleeding into pop culture. The infamous Ride to Hell: Retribution holds just as big a place in history as The Last of Us, if for different reasons.
Another thing to consider are the ethics of such a move. We all make mistakes. As much as we try to hide them and act like they never happened, they’ll always be there. What if you lied on your resume? Let’s say you spent time in jail for a violent crime and didn’t tell them, and you were hired. When your employer finds out (and they will) they’re going to fire you. They didn’t necessarily do it because of the crime, but because they wanted to know about it, and you lied to them.
That principle holds true here. Any new customers who buy Back from Hell might not know about the original Slain!. Is that okay? Shouldn’t they know about the game’s history, how drastically the developers had to overhaul it to make it at least playable? Fixing the game is great, but acting like the original, disastrous release didn’t happened is shady.
Then there are the players who enjoy Slain: Back from Hell and wants to see where it came from. Sure, the original game was bad enough that Wolf Brew Games completely rebooted it with a new name, but that doesn’t mean that some people don’t want the old one. Some players might actually like the old one better.
None of this really matters though. I could go on all day about other benefits, such as using the original version as a teaching tool for young developers or a warning to other developers to never release a game too early. But its not Wolf Brew Games’s job to care about any of that. Their job is to release the best game they can, and that’s what they’re trying to do. How does teaching young developers help them? How does allowing the original to exist just to laugh at benefit Wolf Brew? It doesn’t.
Getting rid of the original is the best thing for consumers. This way there’s no confusion; nobody accidentally buys the original version. It also acts as a redemption story for Wolf Brew, allowing them to hit the reset button on the game with a host of changes at once. The gaming press is more likely to pick up a story of a game re-launching than a series of drip fed, small updates over several weeks or months.
When it comes to game preservation, there are bigger concerns out there then bad games getting updates. It’s a small shame to lose the original, but how many of us are going to remember it in a month (or even a week) from now anyway?
Additional reporting by Bryan Rumsey.